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San Diego Union Tribune - February 12, 2020

SAN DIEGO — When the new San Ysidro and Mission Hills-Hillcrest public libraries opened last year, they had all of the state-of-the-art amenities patrons expect to find in their modern-day libraries. There were public computers and outdoor reading patios. There were teen centers, special children’s libraries and do-it-yourself tools like vinyl cutters and 3D printers.

All of these resources were housed in beautiful buildings that were LEED-certified for environmental friendliness and decorated with public art, but the new additions that seemed to excite patrons and librarians the most were the ones that gave them nothing more than four walls and nothing less than endless opportunities.

That would be the community room, where members of the public can gather for everything from lectures on the upcoming elections to family movie nights. And like pretty much everything libraries offer, the events are free. The old and cramped San Ysidro and Mission Hills-Hillcrest libraries did not have spaces dedicated to community gatherings, so when the new libraries were being designed, patrons said that what they really wanted was a room of their own.

“More and more, people are looking for ways to connect in real life, and we didn’t have a space for that before,” said Gina Bravo, branch librarian for the Mission Hills-Hillcrest Harley & Bessie Knox Library. “I think one of our greatest assets is that we are a brick-and-mortar space where you can connect with a real cross-section of the community.”

Late last month, Gallup Inc. released a poll with the news that visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity in the U.S., outpacing going to the movies, attending a live sporting event or visiting a national or historical park. According to Gallup, Americans averaged 10.5 trips to the library in 2019, more than the 5.3 times a year they go to the movies or the four times a year they attend live music or theatrical events.

If you are still under the impression that libraries are just warehouses for old-school, non-digital entertainment — books, magazines, DVDs, newspapers — the news that libraries are alive and thriving might surprise you. But if you have dropped in on your bustling neighborhood library lately, then you know that a trip to the library is a journey with many destinations. Including some you won’t even know about until you get there.

“We have become less and less a book warehouse. We are more of a community center now,” said Misty Jones, director of the San Diego Public Library. “You have people who are coming to attend events or to use the computers, and they are also coming to interact with other people, and I think that is so important. We are in this age where there is so much talk about people being online and not interacting face to face, but we are not seeing that in our libraries.” ...
Read full report at The San Diego Union Tribune